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Great Grandma Ada turned 95 this past weekend. Friends and family traveled from California, NJ, NC and Florida just to celebrate our Matriarch’s special day. High Tea was served in the Cafe at Thistle Farms, a recovery program for women who have been trafficked, who suffer from addiction and/or are transitioning from the sex trade industry. Started by an Episcopal woman minister, Thistle Farms is a shining light in Nashville; a leader in providing a safe work/therapy model for survivors and selling their hand made home and body care products. #LoveHeals https://thistlefarms.org/

Ms Ada was radiant throughout, sitting between her second husband of nearly 40 years and her grandson, the Rocker. She said later how she looked out at the mosaic of interesting, accomplished, beautiful people and thought how very lucky she is – musicians, therapists, doctors and lawyers, many she had known for most of their lives. Her home in NJ was a safe and accepting way-station during the 1960s. Your family threw you out? She would provide a bedroom. Planning a trip to Woodstock? No problem, she would send you off in style, in a school bus!

A practicing Marriage and Family therapist, Ada is still available as a consultant. Although she broke her hip last year, her spirit and willingness to listen to your problems is intact and always at the ready. She warned Bob when we married that she will always take MY side! And she meant it… Great Grandpa Hudson has coined her “insatiable,” every person she meets wants to open up to her about their troubles. One day, we were in a Talbots dressing room, and the salesgirl sat down on the floor to pour out her heart. Another marriage saved!

But some marriages are not meant to survive, which is why I was intrigued by this WSJ article, “The Math Behind Successful Relationships.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-do-i-love-thee-a-mathematician-counts-the-ways-11549627200?mod=e2tw

Turns out, you can almost predict which marriages will stand the test of time by watching the way couples argue. Leave it to a bunch of statisticians to quantify love:

“Marriages, they found, fell into five categories: validating, volatile, conflict–avoiding, hostile and hostile–detached (a significantly more negative pairing). Only three—validating, volatile and conflict–avoiding—are stable, they write in their book, but a volatile marriage, though passionate, risks dissolving into endless bickering.”  

Not sure I agree with the “conflict-avoiding” one, although my foster parents fell into that category and they were happy for 50+ years. So think about the way you treat conflict in your relationship: sometimes, if Bob and I are bickering, I’ll turn to him and say, “But I thought your sole purpose in life is to make me happy?” Then he smiles, and we reach a compromise. Turns out humor is also a great predictor. Who said something like, “Sex slows, beauty fades, but humor always stays?”

But the fun has got to be mutual. Another sure sign of distress is if one person is laughing while the other is NOT. That’s a sure sign of contempt and a true indicator of divorce.

In other news, it’s a good thing I just replaced my driver’s license, if you know what I mean.

Looking for some couple counseling, just give Ms Ada a call. Happiest Birthday to my mentor in Life and Love! Ada had the courage to leave her first husband and the ability to open her heart to a guy, Great Grandpa Hudson, (the only grandfather my children have ever known), a recovering Baptist preacher from NC; another algorithm you’d never find on Match.com. or Bumble. Here is our beautiful Ada on an Army base in the 1950s. I’ll have to ask her what she thinks of math and marriage.

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Last night I hopped into my Lyft and the driver, who looked nothing like his picture, told me there was a tornado warning. We had one of my three best Lyft/Uber driver conversations on the way home from a quick bite with the Bride. What he didn’t know was that before our supper an actual tornado of creativity had touched down in Nashville. “City of Girls” author Elizabeth Gilbert landed in her “Commonwealth” dress at Montgomery Bell Academy to talk about female sexual desire in the 1940s!

She passed out bottles of champagne to her enchanted fans, the lucky ones celebrating a birthday yesterday, along with the most perfect combination of wit and wisdom I’ve ever heard about navigating this life in the female form. She wanted to explore the lives of promiscuous women, those girls throughout history who never played by the rules. And she was lucky enough to find a living nonagenarian, “Norma” was an old showgirl who wasn’t ashamed to talk about her experience with men over the years and her five abortions. Did she never want to marry? Does she regret not having children?

“Who wants to f— the same guy for sixty years?” 

The audience was laughing, clapping, cheering… Norma had had affairs with John Wayne and Milton Berle. But it was the author herself who delighted us. Gilbert practices brutal honesty; she calls it being on an “Integrity Cleanse.” Her previous partner, a woman named Rayya who recently died of pancreatic cancer, was an addict who treated honesty like a surgical tool in her sobriety arsenal. So Gilbert carries on being true, because it’s so much easier than deceit.

“Truth has legs. It’s the only thing that will stay standing at the end of the day,” she said.

You might as well do it now, or do it later. Why not just get it over with, put truth out there on the table so we all can breathe? She tells us she didn’t grow up this way. Her early life was unconventional yes, still she is aware of her privilege. If you want to hear about her eccentric father, who was a Xmas tree farmer in New England, you’ll have to listen to one of her podcasts!

Gilbert writes herself love letters every day – Why is this happening to me? – How can I manage? – What is the problem – When will it end? And her answer is mostly the same – “I’m here, and I’ll always be here with you – we’ve got this – it will be alright.”

It sounded like a woman praying, but she knew her answers would always be found deep inside. In a way, writing this delicious book was an antidote to her grief after losing Rayya. She had to step back into the creative river, even though she felt weighted down by her loss. She didn’t drown. She wrote like “…a drunk person running.” 

I was aware of the irony in last night. There I was, sitting next to my reluctant Bride, who was inspired to finally take the plunge and get married to her adoring and patient husband, while reading Gilbert’s book, “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.” And there on the stage was the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who fell in love with her best friend and ended her marriage to her husband in order to care for Rayya. And here we all were inside an auditorium in a boy’s school on a humid and rain-soaked night.

But love is love. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” a quote from “Committed.”

Here is one of the last gems  she threw out last night ladies. “If I’m all up in your business, there’s nobody home to take care of me.” I mean, how true is that? Getting into bed last night I thought about my family – the Flapper was certainly unconventional, and my sister Kay, an original Lipstick feminist.

City of Girls” hit the number 2 spot on the NYTimes Hard Cover Fiction Best Sellers List this morning only 2 weeks after publication! I couldn’t get a decent picture last night so I lifted this one – here she is in her Commonwealth dress with that author and bookstore owner, Ann Patchett! A new American Gothic. Thanks Parnassus Books and the Public Library Salon @615 for an unforgettable evening.

Happy Pride Month everyone!

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Nobody Died

That’s Bob’s answer for anything bad that happens – you forgot your passport, an event is cancelled, your plane is delayed, a friend is getting a divorce… You name it and my stoic husband will most likely think for a few seconds, before reminding me that indeed, nobody died! Skip straight ahead to the point of most ER doctors, avoid all that mushy, sentimental feeling stuff in between. Unless of course, someone did die.

We were having a great day with the Grands; lunch at Panera and an early afternoon movie, “The Secret Life of Pets 2.” In the middle of the movie Bob asked me if I had my purse? Of course I said, it was right on my lap. I always sit with my purse on my lap in a movie theatre because once when the Bride was in high school she had her wallet stolen right out of her purse which she had placed on the floor!

Unbeknownst to me, my husband was getting some fraud alert texts on his cell. I didn’t know it but so was I, on my silent cell, in my purse, while he must have felt the buzz in his pants pocket. The movie was over, the evil monkey got shot out of a cannon and disaster had been averted, all the pets were back where they belong, the credits were rolling and Bob stood up and asked me if I had my wallet?

Well it’s true nobody died, but my heart sank as I searched inside my purse in that semi-dark theatre. How is this possible? Then it felt like I’d been gut-punched – my wallet was gone.

The thief was a pro I’m sure, but my purse was some boho macrame backpack that didn’t have a zipper or a latch to close it. It had to have happened during lunch, with two kids, while it was slung over the back of my chair. Going forward I will need to keep my purse on my lap during restaurant meals too…

In the course of maybe two hours the thief had charged over $5,000 on my credit cards. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

We didn’t know that until we were calling the banks in my car outside the theatre, trying to explain what fraud means to two children sitting patiently in their car seats in the back, while we listen and juggle and push numbers on our phones to finally get a human voice on the other end and explain what had happened. Chase. Barclay’s. Target.

  • What is your mother’s maiden name?
  • What are the last 4 digits of your social?
  • What is your zipcode?
  • What is your driver’s license number?

I was shaking, the thief had my license too. How could this customer representative ask me for my driver’s license? Bob was driving home because I couldn’t think clearly, I’d been assaulted in every way except physically. I had to cook Sunday dinner for the Bride and Groom, and I had to wait for a lovely police woman to come to my house so I could file a report.

As it turned out, the Target card, the one I only use at Target and must put a PIN number in to use, was the charm. While other cards were declined, the Target card was accepted as a credit card at every store they hit with my wallet. The special wallet I bought to ward off theft with a magical RFID blocking technology is of no use to an old fashioned pick-pocket.

And all that extra added protection Target claimed to have implemented after their 2013 data breach didn’t help my situation at all.

Just now, I realized that my Medicare and Anthem health insurance cards were also in my wallet. I wonder now, if I did begin to die from a broken sense of trust in the world, would my medical bills be paid? I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed until seconds later I remember, and a sense of dread falls over me like a veil. How long does this last? This feeling of incompetence and stupidity? Will it just blend into Alzheimers until the end?

I didn’t know that the banks decline paying for those fraudulent charges, I will not be responsible for them, and that it is the actual store that will have to pay for $700 worth of gift cards. $300 worth of cigarettes. I experienced a theft, but it’s each individual store that is being defrauded. Maybe nobody died, but still. This was my #MondayMood

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Yesterday, Bob attended a zoning board meeting.

Over the years, I’ve attended my fair share of borough council, school board, and zoning meetings as a reporter, taking copious notes and trying hard not to fall asleep on a hard wooden bench, the kind most civil servants prefer. So I opted out of going with Bob and our neighbor Berdelle, even though this was a mid-afternoon meeting and chances were good I’d be wide awake.

It seems yet another company would like a variance in the number of parking spots required for a bar.

We live in a mixed-use, historic neighborhood in Downtown Nashville. Monstrous building cranes do battle every day (not the bird-variety), and explosions pierce the landscape rippling through limestone bedrock. We are about to get thousands of new jobs downtown thanks to the Amazon Empire. Being a most popular city is a blessing and a curse. Small shacks are selling for half a million dollars, only to be demolished and replaced by two “tall skinny” houses on one lot. Tall apartment buildings are rising quickly along, dwarfing smaller homes like ours,  and real estate prices are still climbing.

So it’s no wonder that regular people cannot afford to live here. The large, stately, historic Victorian brick homes sell for more than a million dollars and are being snatched up by LLCs – lawyers, dentists, shops and restaurants mingle closely with residential properties. Pretty soon our riverfront is going to be developed, and traffic lights just might find their way onto our streets, instead of the comforting four-way-stop sign.

But back to yesterday. According to our metro government zoning code, bars must have one parking spot per 75 sq ft! This particular big, brick building was 3657 sq ft last year, but the proposed bar reduced it to a smaller size requiring 36 parking spaces! Out in the back is a tiny residential slab for parking maybe 3 cars!

The lawyer for the bar thinks that street parking, and a paid parking lot a block away will magically make up for their lack of spots. The zoning board tabled their request thanks to Bob and our neighbors showing up.

Another local bugaboo has been tabled recently; Mayor Briley’s idea to install a bunch of parking meters downtown. This was the Tennessean’s take on the matter:

“Nashville is in a rush to secure a deal to outsource its public parking.The solicitation for proposals from private companies to take over its on-street parking operations asks for $30 million up front to take over the city’s work.

The winning bidder — which would also pay the city its current net revenue parking of $1.5 million — would manage the city’s parking spaces, issue tickets, collect fines and issue permits for valet parking, loading zones and street parking permits in residential areas. It would be a 30-year deal.”

I wonder where Bob and I will park ourselves in the next 30 years? After all, Great Grandma Ada is turning 95 next week and she’ll be the first to tell you she never saw herself living in TN! Will we eventually find a beach house? Stay tuned to our adventure in aging and fighting for residential parking permits! Here I am in front of the old slaughterhouse by the river which will soon become condos.

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  1. Nobody has to win! Honestly, marriage is not a game, it’s more like an endless marathon. Whenever you come across a problem, don’t just ignore it, it will become infected. 99% of conflict happens when one person is feeling ignored, so listen. Really listen, and think about your own contribution to the problem. Put down your defense mechanism, and pick up your empathy.
  2. Change it Up! An endless marathon can get boring, but not if you take some long, windy roads along the way. Sure there’s something to be said for consistency, but people change, and so will your relationship. Once you were a young mom, writing for a newspaper, and now you’re an old nana writing a blog. In between, you raised two kids, tried your hand at medical coding, helped a friend open a knitting store, went to grad school, and sat on a school board seat. Keep growing and your relationship will keep blooming.
  3. Stay True to Yourself! Okay so you’re married, that doesn’t mean you must do everything together. Two fully formed adults can’t really become one living, breathing personality. I love to dance, and play games, like tennis or cards. Bob has two left feet and has absolutely no interest in anything remotely competitive. He is a pilot and loves to fly, I have a white-knuckle fear of flying. Hey, if we went on Match.com there’s NO way this algorithm would work! Yet, here we are.
  4. Be Supportive! It’s the little things that count. A friend once told me her husband always keeps her favorite drink in the garage refrigerator, and refills the kitchen fridge without being asked… imagine not having to ask your husband to do something around the house! For me, it’s the Keurig. When I stumble into the kitchen in the morning and the coffee reservoir is filled with water, I know Bob loves me.
  5. Conduct a Performance Review! We used to have 5 year plans that we’d discuss on our anniversary. Where do we see ourselves in 5 years? But now that Bob has retired and we’ve had a few medical scares, we’ve decided every year on our anniversary to have a critical conversation. We’ll discuss what we’ve done right in the past year, what we’ve managed to bungle, and what we want to do better in the coming year. After all, time is flying – this life is short.

After 40 years as husband and wife, we decided to see where this next year will take us. I’m finally feeling at home in Nashville, and Bob’s thinking about joining a flying club. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always 50 – 50. Sometimes I’m giving 80% and sometimes I’m giving 20%, but the trick is to not give up on one another. As Sally Field once said, “Go into the heart of the Dragon.”

Here is Bob at 70, making me my very first Chai Tea smoothie!

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Remember that slogan? Some Mad Man thought it up in 1969, and it has since crossed over into our collective history as one of the most iconic ad campaigns. Coming on the heels of the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving v Virginia, that ruled “anti-miscegenation” statutes are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, it seems fitting.

In other words, Love is Love and if you wanted to marry someone of a different race, that was your right!

The Bride is the reason we moved to Virginia. We built our “Not Sooo Big” house, she married her Anatomy partner, and this weekend they are both back in Virginia at the Groom’s brother’s wedding. The Love Bug is a Flower Girl, and L’il Pumpkin is looking oh so suave in his tux with the fish taco bowtie! Big Dan is getting married and I couldn’t be happier, especially when my cell dings and I get another picture!

But happening in the midst of their joy, in Virginia Beach, twelve people lost their lives, because a man could purchase “legally” as many guns as he wanted to walk into a building and shoot his co-workers.

I cannot watch the news coverage. I cannot listen to journalists try to figure out the murderer’s motivation. Or tell us how courageous the police force was… because this is INSANE.

I was in Virginia Beach when the Rocker was playing at a bar with the Parlor Mob. I drove from Cville, picked up my younger cousin Beth in Richmond, and we had a Girl’s Night! It was the first time I saw the Rocker play a keyboard and dance a little. The Bride studied and worked in VA Beach at Planned Parenthood, before she applied to all the VA medical schools. Bob has flown into that airport many times.

We were sick the weekend we moved to Nashville, when white supremacists marched on UVA’s Lawn. We love Virginia.

Life is often like this, periods of intense joy punctuated by sorrow. While the Bride was marrying her Groom on a mountain overlooking Monticello, our good friend’s mother was dying. He didn’t tell us that night. But she was over 90 – she didn’t just show up at work and not come home.

Nearly 100 people are shot and killed in this country every single day….what is the definition of crazy?

You expect change, yet you do nothing. Vote the GOP out of office. Work for comprehensive gun control. DO something, join Moms Demand Action https://momsdemandaction.org/, contribute to the ACLU https://www.aclu.org/, because it’s only a matter of time. We are habituated to gun violence, it’s our greatest national sin.

Here is Uncle Dan and Aunt Natalie today in Virginia, with two flower girls and a ring bearer in a fish taco tie, for an extra measure of Love. Congratulations to the newly married couple.

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I kid you not. This past weekend, Bob and I were hosting the Grands for their second sleepover. And what’s a better way to start the adventure than a chocolate factory tour? Especially if your tour guide’s name is Willy?

He stood there mute for a few seconds as we started to giggle, then he told us he’d heard ALL the jokes so we could move on.

And move on we did! Willy told us that cacao pods come off of the tree’s trunk, they are not hanging at the end of branches, and it takes some effort to climb up a tree and machete them down. And unlike coffee beans, they need more heat to grow, so the pods only grow from a distance of 20 degrees from the equator.

And every week Willy opens a 100 lb burlap bag of cacao pods.

(The rest of this story is by the Love Bug)

“And inside every cacao pod are 50 beans! Willy has to separate the beans from the fruit inside – it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it! The beans have to get roasted in a big machine, and that can take from 15 minutes to a whole hour. Then they go into another machine that grinds them into “nibs,” which produces the cacao butter.

Next, the nibs get tempered! They go into a vacuum oven where they get melted and cooled quickly – how quickly could you melt them? This takes about an hour altogether and flavors are added. Flavors like: sea salt; salt and pepper; coffee; bourbon; and cinnamon. Then Willy squeezes them from a tube into molds to shape the chocolate – not all are shaped like rectangles, some bars are square, and even some look like sausages!

But they’re not.

The only time Willy gets a break is when a special machine wraps the bars. In the past, he had to do this by hand, and it took him 3 hours. Now it’s done in 30 minutes.”

Today Ms Bug is visiting and she loves to write stories too. We had the best time at the https://www.oliveandsinclair.com/ chocolate factory in East Nashville. We all had to wear hairnets which was funny! And we are wondering if you’d like to work in a chocolate factory too? If you do, just do it!

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